The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton
(023) 8059 6621

Dr Jonathan Copley BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD

Associate Professor in Marine Ecology

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Dr Jonathan Copley is Associate Professor in Marine Ecology (part-time) within Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton.

No human eye had glimpsed this part of the planet before us, this pitch-black country lighted only by the pale gleam of an occasional spiralling shrimp (Otis Barton, The World Beneath The Sea, 1953)

My research investigates colonies of animals on the ocean floor, to understand patterns of life in the deep sea that covers most of our world.

Hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, whale-falls and wood-falls provide island-like habitats for populations of deep-sea species, through which we can examine interactions between ecology, biogeography, and evolution in the 60 percent of our planet covered by water more than 1 km deep.

In June 2013 I became the first British person to dive more than 5 km deep in the ocean, taking part in the first dive by a human-occupied vehicle to the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents.

Positions held

Since 2014: Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum
2010-2012: Co-Chair of InterRidge initiative for international cooperation in mid-ocean ridge research
2007-2013: Lecturer in Marine Ecology, University of Southampton
2005-2007: Senior Teaching Fellow in Marine Ecology, University of Southampton
2000-2004: Science Coordinator, NERC Autosub Under Ice research programme
2000-2005: Teaching Fellow in Marine Ecology, University of Southampton
1998-1999: Intern, then Reporter, then Assistant News Editor, New Scientist magazine


PhD in Oceanography, University of Southampton, 1998
MSc in Oceanography, University of Southampton, 1994
First Class BSc(Hons) in Zoology, University of Sheffield, 1992






Research interests

I have been involved in projects exploring four areas:

* East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean
* Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea
* Mid-Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores
* the SW Indian Ridge

where my work addresses three main topics:

(1) Global biogeography of deep-sea chemosynthetic environments
(e.g. Copley et al., 2016; Chen et al., 2015a; Roterman et al., 2013; Connelly et al., 2012; Rogers et al., 2012; Copley et al. 2007a)

Why do we find particular types of animals at some sites, but not at sites elsewhere? Why are some types of animals found at more sites around the world than other types? These are the big questions, and answering them should give us a better understanding of patterns of life throughout the deep ocean. Answering them also involves describing new species from the areas that we are exploring, and analysing their genetic code to determine how they are related to species elsewhere.

Here are some of the new species that my team has been involved in describing from recent expeditions:

* Pachycara caribbaeum Anderson, Somerville & Copley 2016 (deep-sea eelpout fish)
* Gigantopelta chessoia & Gigantopelta aegis Chen et al. 2015b ("giant" peltospirid snails)
* Paulasterias tyleri Mah et al. 2015 (seven-armed seastar)
* Chrysomallon squamiferum Chen, Linse, Copley & Rogers 2015 ("scaly-foot" snail)
* Osedax rogersi & Osedax crouchi Amon et al. 2014 (bone-eating "zombie" worms)
* Lebbeus virentova Nye, Copley, Plouviez & Van Dover 2013 ("green goolie" shrimp)
* Iheyaspira bathycodon Nye, Linse, Copley & Plouviez 2013 (deep-sea snail)
* Rimicaris hybisae Nye, Copley & Plouviez 2012 (world's deepest known vent shrimp)

(2) Spatial & temporal dynamics of faunal assemblages in chemosynthetic environments
(e.g. Amon et al., 2013; Marsh et al., 2013; Marsh et al., 2012; Copley et al., 2007b)

Within a vent field, cold seep, or whale-fall, our goal is to understand what lives where and why. For example, why are particular species found in the immediate vicinity of "black smoker" vents, and other species found only in periphery of vent fields?

Unfortunately we can't stroll around the ocean floor as easily as ecologists do on seashores to investigate their patterns of life, so we are developing new techniques to study the microdistribution of animals in these environments, using high-definition cameras and the precision-control capabilities of the latest generation of remotely-operated vehicles.

(3) Life-history biology of species occupying insular & ephemeral marine habitats
(e.g. Roterman et al., 2016; Amon et al., 2015; Marsh et al., 2015; Nye & Copley, 2014; Nye et al., 2013; Copley et al., 2007b; Copley & Young, 2006; Copley et al., 2003)

How do animals "hop" from vent to vent, or seep to seep, or whale skeleton to whale skeleton, in the deep ocean? The species we find in these island-like habitats on the ocean floor seem to have a variety of life cycles, types of larval development, and reproductive patterns. But are some features of their life-history biology "preadaptations" for success in these environments? And what are the consequences of differences in life-history biology for dispersal, gene flow, and ultimately biogeography?

One of the current paradoxes in marine biology is that differences in larval type don't seem to influence the differentiation of populations very much over surprisingly large scales. But is that just because we don't yet have a good picture of what's going on down there? Our work in this area involves characterising the life-cycles of animals from deep-sea vents, seeps, whale-falls and wood-falls, in conjunction with studies of the genetics of their populations by colleagues around the world.

Research grants

Principal Investigator, Hydrothermal activity and deep-ocean biology of the Mid-Cayman Rise (NERC £462k Standard Grant), 2009-2014

Co-Investigator, ChEsSo: Chemosynthetic Ecosystems of the Southern Ocean (NERC £3.2 million Consortium Grant), 2008-2014

Principal Investigator, Biogeography and ecology of the first known deep-sea vent site on the ultraslow-spreading SW Indian Ridge (NERC £35k Small Grant), 2011-2012

Lead investigator, Deep-sea vents between the Azores and Iceland: missing piece in a global puzzle of marine life (£43k National Geographic Expeditions Fund Grant), 2011-2012

Informing policy

Contributed comments on the first draft of regulations for mineral exploitation by the UN International Seabed Authority (2016)

Provided written evidence to House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on Marine Protected Areas (2016)

Contributor to Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Briefing Note on deep-sea mining (2015)

Participant, Royal Society Parliamentary Pairing Scheme (2014)

Prepared case for an Ecologically or Biologically Sensitive Area (EBSA) in the Indian Ocean, submitted by the UK to a regional meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (2013)

Deep-sea research expeditions

Participant, MV Alucia expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, December 2016, with the Nadir and Deep Rover 2 submersibles

Participant, RV Yokosuka Voyage YK13-05 (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology), Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, June 2013, with the Shinkai6500 submersible

Chief Scientist, RRS James Cook Voyage 82, Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, February 2013, with the Isis remotely operated vehicle (ROV)

Chief Scientist, RRS James Cook Voyage 67, SW Indian Ridge, November 2011, with the Kiel6000 ROV

Participant, RV Celtic Explorer Voyage CE11009 (Irish Marine Institute), northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, July-August 2011, with the Holland-1 ROV

Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 55, Southern Ocean, January-February 2011

Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 44, Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre, Caribbean Sea, March-April 2010, with the Autosub6000 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)

Participant, RRS James Cook Voyage 42, East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, January-February 2010, with the Isis ROV

Participant, RRS James Clark Ross Voyage 224, East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, January-February 2009

Research group

Marine Biology and Ecology

Research project(s)

Exploring the Deep Ocean


Book Chapter


SOES1006 Elements of Marine Ecology - lecturer
SOES2030 Marine Biology Fieldwork Skills - coordinator
SOES6020 Structure and Dynamics of Marine Communities - coordinator

Teaching awards

Vice-Chancellor's Award for Postgraduate Training 2011
Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching 2007

Teaching administration

Senior Tutor for Postgraduate Taught Programmes, 2008-2015
Programme Leader, MSc Oceanography degree, 2013-2015
Programme Leader, MSc Marine Resource Management degree, 2012-2014

Other teaching

Lead Educator, "Exploring Our Oceans" Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), since 2015

Introduced a microROV facility for marine biology practical teaching, in a collaboration with the Natural History Museum

Published research on students' use of digital recordings of lectures.

I have worked with news media to share my team's research with people, and have contributed to documentaries featuring our discoveries for the BBC and National Geographic. I also frequently talk to public audiences and schools about exploring the deep ocean, and created a network of online resources so that people can join in our voyages. This overall programme of public engagement with our research resulted in a successful "Impact Case Study" for REF2014.

I received the Biosciences Federation Science Communication Award for Established Researchers in 2008 and the British Science Association Charles Lyell Lecture Award in 2007. As a "popular science" writer, I have also written more than 150 articles for publications such as New Scientist, Nature, and The Guardian.

TV news & documentaries: some highlights

* Consultant, "Blue Planet 2", BBC Natural History Unit, 2017
* Consultant, "Atlantic: The Wildest Ocean On Earth", BBC Two: August 2015
* Interviewee, Channel 4 News: March 2013; March 2012; August 2010
* Interviewee, BBC Six O'Clock News: February 2013; December 2011
* Onscreen contributor, "Alien Deep", National Geographic TV: September 2012
* Studio Guest, The Paul O'Grady Show: September 2007

Radio news & documentaries: some highlights

* Panel member, The Infinite Monkey Cage, BBC Radio 4: January 2017
* Interviewee, Today programme, BBC Radio 4: April 2014; February 2013; October 2009
* Interviewee, World at One, BBC Radio 4: May 2013
* Interviewee, World Tonight, BBC Radio 4: December 2011
* Contributor, Costing The Earth, BBC Radio 4: April 2010

Print & online media coverage: some examples

* "New marine life found in deep-sea vents", BBC News Online, 15 December 2016
* "The Hasselhoff crab that shuns female company", The Daily Mail online, 03 March 2015
* "Unique whale skeleton discovered on the Antarctic sea bed has NINE new species living on it", The Daily Mail online, 19 March 2013
* "Lost World' of odd species found off Antarctica", National Geographic News, 05 January 2012
* "Exotic creatures discovered living at deep-sea vent in Indian Ocean", The Guardian, 28 December 2011
* "World's deepest undersea vents discovered in Caribbean", BBC News Online, 12 April 2010

My own popular science articles: some examples

"When politics met science: harmony or hegemony?", New Scientist online: December 2014
"Just how little do we know about the ocean floor?"
, The Conversation, Scientific American online and IFLScience: October 2014
"Five thousand metres under the sea: my journey to another world"
, The Guardian online, July 2013
"Litter found in deepsea survey of one of Earth's final unexplored realms"
, The Guardian online, February 2013

Public talks & events: some highlights

* Bluedot Festival, Jodrell Bank, July 2016
* "The Ocean Debates", Royal Institution, London: October 2015
* British Science Festival, Bradford: September 2015
* Winchester Science Festival: July 2012
* London Diving Chamber Dive Lectures, Royal Geographic Society, March 2011

Talks & visits to schools: some highlights

* Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester: February 2013 (live video link from sea); October 2012; May 2012; May 2010; June 2009
* London International Youth Science Forum: August 2012
* The Prince's Teaching Institute (CPD event for teachers): March 2012; March 2011
* Society for Underwater Technology Christmas Lectures, National Maritime Museum: December 2005

Online engagement: some highlights

* Creator, "" deep-sea expeditions website (>300,000 visitors since March 2010)
* Creator, "expeditionlog" YouTube channel (>250,000 views since January 2009)
* Winner, Neon Zone prize, "I'm A Scientist" online schools engagement event: June 2010

Dr Jonathan Copley
Student Office, Room 166/09 University of Southampton Waterfront Campus National Oceanography Centre European Way Southampton SO14 3ZH

Room Number:NOCS/566/12

Telephone:(023) 8059 6621

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